Lin Homer, chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), has apologised to the Commons Treasury Committee for the tax department’s poor performance in handling telephone enquiries.
She also revealed that extra staff were being employed to take calls in the evening and that additional online services were being introduced, in an attempt to improve HMRC’s customer service.
Only half of calls to HMRC were answered in the period between April and June 2015 – a figure which was described as ‘staggeringly bad’ by the cross-party committee of MPs. This is the second time that HMRC has been severely criticised by MPs inside a week, after the Public Accounts Committee accused HMRC of ‘failing UK taxpayers’.
In response, Ms Homer explained that a series of changes introduced after this period had led to an improvement between July and September, when 76% of telephone queries were successfully dealt with by either a recorded message or a member of staff.
However, Conservative MP Mark Garnier said that 24% of calls still going unanswered was ‘completely unacceptable’ and argued that a similar level of customer service would lead to a commercial enterprise going out of business.
HMRC has said that it has introduced a new telephone system which means that up to 20,000 staff could be deployed to answer the phone at any one time.